Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Was Haben Sie Gedacht?!

Dear John Piersma, School Board President, Illiana Christian High School,

Take a second and go look at ICHS' 1990 Yearbook.  You'll see my picture plastered all over the book, but the one I'd like to point out is on page 80:  German Award Winner.

I'm writing you as a concerned alumnus.  I've heard that Illiana plans to drop its German program.  That one classroom of German I students does not generate enough interest to make continuing the program worthwhile.

But I don't quite understand why German still wouldn't be worthwhile, especially a program like Illiana's that has such a stellar reputation with many universities.  According to the Foreign Language page at Illiana's website:
The Department of Foreign Languages views both the universal phenomenon of human language and all forms of such language as uniquely human gifts bestowed by God, Himself the Eternal Word.  As a means of verbal communication among persons language is a central component in bearing the image of God, and as such is central to the Christian school curriculum.  In its marvelous diversity language reflects the awesome limitlessness of the Creator.
Apparently the powers that be at Illiana think that diversity now comes in just two forms:  Spanish and English.

Then I read the school's course catalog.  It's pretty telling that the school does not seem to think much of the German program.  It has no introduction, while the Spanish classes are nicely described:
In today's marketplace, Spanish has become an essential tool in communication.  Spanish will be essential in many professions in the public sector such as social work, social service, medical and the trades.  Because of increasing open trade with our Spanish-speaking neighbors, Spanish will also be a necessary tool in the business world.  With the increase of our Spanish-speaking neighbors in the U.S., the ability to communicate with them will allow us to bridge the cultural gap and share the message of Jesus with them in their own language.
Germany is the fifth-ranked economy by GDP.  Mexico is tenth (2008, World Bank).  Germany is still a very important country in the world, especially in the business world.  With globalization, many major companies need to have offices in Germany.  These companies require their top employees to work overseas in order to be eligible for promotions--and "overseas" involves more countries than just Spanish-speaking ones.

In terms of sharing God's message, according to the U.S. State Department, Mexico's 2000 Census reports that 93% of Mexico's population is Christian (mostly Catholic, yes, but that's not including Seventh-Day Adventists, LDS, or other religions).  Meanwhile, State Department estimates of Germany's religious population have Christianity (including Catholicism) at a mere 66% of the population.  Taking away German would be taking away great opportunities for Illiana students to be good stewards of God's Word.  You know, sharing the message of Jesus with Germans.  In their own language.

Winning the German Award wasn't the end of German in my life.  Illiana's German program shaped a good portion of my professional and personal life and I continue use it on a weekly basis.  I majored in German in college, and was one of three freshman who tested into the highest level possible.  I studied in Vienna.  I worked at one of the top global consulting firms and was selected to participate in an exchange program where I worked in the company's Munich office (this was supposed to be a three-month exchange, but I was the only American in my department who spoke German, and the Germans couldn't decide who to send, so I went for six months so two Germans could experience working in America).  Currently I'm a freelance writer, and one of my gigs involves writing profile articles on European companies.  I receive interview notes in German and turn them into English-language articles.  Through all of these experiences, I've made friends in Germany and Austria, including one dear friendship that dates back to a Frau Westerhof-led Europe trip in 1990.

I implore you to reconsider the decision to abandon the German program.  Give students a chance to learn this language and have more options in their future.

However, you can decide to disband this program.  Just know that if you do, Illiana will be dead to me.  I never want another newsletter.  I never want to know who's running for school board.  I never want another invitation to a lousy golf tournament.  And most importantly, I never want another letter asking me to donate money to the school, because I refuse to financially support an institution that actively seeks ways to limit opportunities for its students to learn--and does so in the name of God.

Your pal,
Class of 1990

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